The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has announced that the legal requirement to confine and house poultry and other birds as a precautionary measure against avian influenza (bird flu) will be lifted from this Friday (April 29).

The legislation requiring the precautionary confinement of birds was introduced on November 22, to mitigate the risk of bird flu in poultry.

The decision to withdraw this requirement is based on a number of factors which indicate a reduction in risk of bird flu, including the fact that no case of bird flu has been confirmed here in wild birds for a period of four weeks; reduced numbers of migrating waterfowl; and increasing environmental temperatures and daylight hours.

Removing the requirement to confine birds means that all poultry and bird owners may allow their birds access to open areas and runs from the end of this month.

The department, however, is urging flock owners to remain vigilant as, notwithstanding the reduced risk, there is still the possibility of the virus being present in the environment or being transmitted to their flock by wild birds.

The department emphasises that further enhanced biosecurity requirements that were introduced on November 17, remain in place.

These include the requirements to ensure that poultry or other captive birds cannot come into contact with wild birds; that all areas that poultry and captive birds have access to are fenced; and that they are restricted from access to open or permanent standing water.

Restrictions on the assembly of live birds for the purposes of show or sale also remain in place.

Bird owners are being asked to continue to remain vigilant by monitoring their birds for any signs of disease and implementing strict disease-control measures. In particular, birds should continue to be fed indoors or under cover where wild birds cannot have access.

The department is also reminding all poultry owners, including those who keep only one or two birds, of their legal obligation to register their premises with the department.